Monday, 25 September 2023 01:43 GMT

Higher costs, uncertain sales mark coffee crop

(MENAFN- Brazil-Arab News Agency (ANBA)) Thais Sousa

São Paulo – The pandemic is expected to drive up the cost of harvesting coffee in Brazil. to make ends meet, producers are betting their chips on specialty coffee. The caveat is that cafés are closed in major cities like São Paulo, which used to be the biggest buyers of high-end product. The topic was in discussion during a live stream hosted by the Brazilian Coffee Exporters Council (Cecafé) this Thursday (2). The event featured speakers from several coffee-producing regions in Brazil, including Cerrado Coffee Growers Federation chairman Francisco Sergio de Assis; Agricafé CEO Silvio Leite; wholesaler association Centro de Comércio de Café de Vitória (CCCV) chairman Marcio Candido Ferreira; and Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (Embrapa) researcher Enrique Anastácio Alves, in Rondônia.

Silvio Leite said pandemic-related measures are here to stay

According to Leite, Covid-19 prevention measures have been put in place at farms, and this should require higher investment in crops. 'Worker care has taken a very different shape. Only half of crews will be involved in transportation, so that will drive up costs, but fortunately so far we haven't had any cases, any complications anywhere,' he said in reference to Bahia, the state he works in.

Leite also noted that the pandemic has prevented workers coming from elsewhere, a formerly widespread practices in many areas. 'Basically, we are working with local labor. This is a problem in many areas that used to get workers from Bahia. So far, the harvest is going well [in terms of labor force],' he explained.

Once harvesting is over, there's uncertainty over product sales. Instead of cafés, online sales and supermarkets are expected to take charge, but there are questions regarding the extent to which that will be the case. 'Production of commodity coffee is going really well, with high output. Now, the challenge is that Rondônia is specializing in specialty coffee grown by family farmers, and being away from big cities makes selling a complex affair. At a national level, we can tell that major buyers are involved with cafés, and café sales are down 40% in Brazil. household consumption has gone up, but what type is this coffee?', inquires Enrique Anastácio Alves.

Enrique Alves is working to boost the quality of Robusta coffee in the Amazon

The main question facing producers everywhere is whether higher-quality café purchased by these establishments will sell in retail instead. 'We have smallholder coffee farmers. We're in the hands of wholesalers and exporters. Farmers are learning to grow quality coffee and sell it away from the farm. I believe this is a productive thing, in spite of the turmoil we are going through,' the Embrapa Rondônia researcher said regarding the Amazon, where Canephora coffee – also known as Conilon or Robusta – is grown.

In Minas Gerais' Cerrado area and in Espírito Santo, a well-matured crop is expected, with higher production of specialty coffee. When it comes to sales from Espírito Santo, Marcio Candido Ferreira explains that the strong dollar relative to Brazil's real makes exporting advantageous, and that includes finer coffee. Although he sees demand keeping steady, the CCCV chairman believes specialty sales will drop around the world as a result of the pandemic. 'People are drinking much more coffee at home, but there is no question that specialty coffees are a concern,' he said.

Marcio Candido Ferreira is optimistic about sales of Arabica and Conilon coffee from Espírito Santo

He said the scenario spells opportunity for lower value-added grains. 'I believe that as a rule of thumb, you have a steady, substantial demand. We must remember that amid a pandemic where the world economy can be affected, the more competitive, blend-oriented coffees will benefit from that, in case consumer purchasing power decreases. This is great news for Conilon (Robusta) coffee, whose exports have been breaking records. I am also very optimistic about Arabica sales from Brazil,' he said.

Each producing region has a different reality, but the specialists agree that measures adopted before and during the crop are expected to persist post-Covid-19. 'Yes, this will bring positive results that are probably here to stay. I think this whole scenario will bring about a more ethical, transparent environment that will tend to perpetuate. End buyers and those who have managed to reopen are calling out [for specialty coffee]. Evidently, all of this care and protocols leading to the end buyer are not going to go away,' said Leite.

Translated by Gabriel Pomerancblum


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